Sovan Dev Das
The Lady And The Servant
(The entire story and its title is ironical)
(The entire story and its title is ironical)
"Malati, close the door", Anupama cried out from the open balcony.
Mr. Roy had just left the house with Rs 3 lakh cheque from the recent launched outlay corporation. Anupama had never thought the fruits would be so tender and fast-growing yet she waited for her husband keeping a close eye on the amount.
Anupama is a fresh luxurious lady. Often she used to go out alone for gossips and women's party which her mother - in -law measured as a relentless rowdiness. She wears posh jewellery when she shops from the near Utpal's grocery store. All admires her taste and Mrs. Mukherjee always takes her help while buying clothes for Durga Puja. Anupama's father is a manager of a reputed nationalized bank. During her marriage, Sushanta, her husband, was ridiculed of staring at her adorations instead of at her. Of course Sushanta expected so. Murmurs spread Anupama is the richest daughter-in-law of Malavika Devi. Her sister-in-laws often talked about the untainted dowries she has brought to the family.
Yet, Anupama's nature had one slipup. She often called the bank's regulars beggars for money.
"What you paupers, don't you have any patience for cash?"Anupama's father used to feel edgy.
Times passed yet she ever remained chesty.
Malavika Devi always conformed to the standards and caucus of the middle class. All this made Anupama's usual comment "She is unimaginatively conventional." To Anupama her life was like a Jadughar of and indeed it was. Sushanta brought a first present to her in the form of a well designed flat 3 km distance from his childhood destination.
"Have you cleaned the flower-vase?" Anupama asked from the bed-room.
This was the day's twenty-first order to Malati. Malati never reacted in negative. She followed and earned.
Malati is the third child of Mondal family of Diamond Harbour. The first child of the family, a son was brought death from mother's womb. Her father was harebrained. He used to run under the shadows of Nox and the villagers used to draw him to quietus. But five months before, the escape became meliorate. The soul of trajectory is never within the precincts. The wife used to whimper, but the walls of the cottage didn't have ears .Her elder sister was found death in her in-laws house after her miscarriage. But the yarn was of self-annihilation. Her mother became a sort of an herbaceous plant. She used to eat in the corner of the house in silence.
"What's the time?" Anupama asked from the drawing room.
Malati remembered the days when she used to beg for alms on the streets of Kalighat. She used to travel from Diamond Harbour with employers at call centres in the early dawn. After gesturing the great goddess she initiated her day after day routine. When she returned she found her mother already asleep with water. No one remained to ask about her wealth or health. It is one year of Kali Puja when Sushanta and Anupama pulled her out from the heaps of beggars.
Malati had never visited an apartment like this. It took her over half-an-hour to closely envisage this place.
"Will you stay all day?" Sushanta questioned him.
"I will forever." was her hushed reply.
Malati has never returned to her mother from that day.
"Mother has never thought of me except as a traipse of Kalighat. Who cares if a flaccid awakes for her cursed lass?"
Anupama's attitude often disturbs Malati.
"She is no more a drifter. She is a functioning maid in a comfy flat in the heart of Kolkata." But Anupama hardly ever allowed her to glance at her feet. She treats her like an electric fan, switches her on and off as she likes.
'Misery' is variable. What was in home was logical, but what is in now is bitty. Malati felt a kick out of freedom in her life. Mendicancy has less incentive yet it was independent of orders.
For Durga Puja, few days are left. Malati had always desired for a sari in her life. A rich red color garment with touches of batik has always fascinated her.
"And why not, Puja is for all and sundry."
But Malati knew well she must not expect such thing from the house. If she reiterates Anupama would nitpick: "What, wearing a new sari will bestow you more alms? You were lallygagging on streets and we have brought to heaven's peace. Didn't have food to eat at times of day, thinking about a red sari with touches of batik!!! Spit, spit, spit. "
The usual negations often deflate Malati from work. But what can she do. She has left home for seven years. Will her mother recognize her or is she no more? What Anupama told about her life is not wide of the mark. She remembers the time when all of them remained hungry for days.
"People said my father used to go astray. But did they know that it was his search for food? God has enforced women to undergo the labour pains. But a man has no such pangs."
Anupama switches on the television. Two girls in costume are dancing across the blue river. A verse of serenity touches Malati's face. She can't help saying: "See, how beautiful". Anupama crossly rises from the chaise longue and went to the bedroom.
Malati never knows why people get with such dim-witted stances when others are euphoric. "Is speaking an offence?"
Thirty minutes have passed. The entire flat is silent in its own world.
"Malati, see who's at the door."
A sudden rush occupied the flat. Malati shouted. Two men in achromatic uniform ran to the bedroom. Malati taciturnly went to the door. She saw the two men ramming through the entire room. A sense of danger ran through the mind of her. She never thought the feeling of threat will hamper her life in Kolkata. She has gone through the dangers of necessities, but the nuisance of city life is something unusual.
"Call your sir, from the cell phone in cupboard" Anupama cried out.
Malati bolted the bedroom.
She has never got a positive direction here. She fastened to the cupboard and tried to open it. But she doesn't know the keys.
" I have to save my madam."
Finally she has got the right key and opened it. A heap of expensive saris felt down on the floor.
"Madam has many so saris!!!"
She started to examine one or two closely. But she remembers her duty. She spread her hands through the mass of garments for the phone. She has once or twice seen it in train in the hands of call centres employers.
"It is small but has enough functions." her father used to tell.
She brought out the machine. But she doesn't know how to make a call from it. It is the first time she is seeing a phone from such a close view.
"It has writings. It has images. It has color. It has a shape. It has a value. The things I missed in my life. Its importance is more than me. Am I inferior to a thing not even one-tenth of my size?"
She touches the keypad with extreme delicacy. She is aware it goes wrong if she touches. She kept the phone on the tea-table and heard sounds from the bedroom.
"Those sounds are of pain, of throbbing, of hopelessness, of disappointments, of sadness."
Malati went for the saris. A good number of saris are packed. They are for puja.
" This one is very good. It is gorgeous red with white velvet laces. The next is of siphon. Strips of golden embroidery cover the other two. Wow! Batik of images of gods. The next white sari is arrant-looking. My mother always wanted a sari like this. We couldn't give a good benarasi to my sister. But here are plenty. The red benarasi is extremely beautiful. If ever I get married I will wear a sari like this."
Malati went for the shopping bags in the cupboard. She put all the good things of the city life in them. The things of the city, the things of the flat, the things of madam, the things for hope, the things for life. She has completed everything in her thirty years of existence.
"Madam , I am going." Malati cried out as she closes the door of the flat and walks out.
All rights belong to its author. It was published on e-Stories.org by demand of Sovan Dev Das.
Published on e-Stories.org on 22.08.2012.